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I had an interview before the weekend (they found me on stack overflow and I haven't been offered the job yet, so I'm posting anonymously). It's for a permanent position with a company that's been around for a while, but a brand new project that sounds really exciting.

However, apparently they have a bring your own device policy, where they don't provide a company laptop. They do provide any licences for software I will need (office, IDEs etc) and monitors should I want them, but not the actual computer.

Is this a normal thing? I've never worked for anywhere that didn't provide at least a desktop if not a laptop.

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    I wouldn't feel comfortable having my personal laptop be the same device as my work machine. Just as a dumb example, suppose I want to visit questionable websites (on my personal machine and own Internet connection). Doing so is at my own risk, and does not risk any company data or involvement. This is how it ought to be. – Brandin Oct 13 '15 at 8:55
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    See also this security exchange question: security.stackexchange.com/questions/102536/… – Jonathan Cast Oct 13 '15 at 22:20
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    Are they offering a stipend or just saying, bring your own device? I've heard of companies offering $$$ for the employee to purchase whatever equipment they need. – L_7337 Oct 14 '15 at 11:57
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    How many employees does that company have? – CodesInChaos Oct 14 '15 at 12:10
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    And here I was thinking they had a Bring Your Own Drink policy, ie a place where you can bring your own beer and sip it while programming. Oh well, one can hope... – Shantnu Tiwari Oct 14 '15 at 15:16
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Yes, you should be concerned. It looks as if they have not thought things through (enough).

It is in their interest to provide you with a machine:

The main reason is that there can be no (future) arguments about who is responsible for what. They can always claim it is company property that you must take good care of. That includes:

  • You have to handle it in a proper way, i.e. not having it contaminated with malware because you download and install illegal game torrents in your free time ;-)
  • They can decide if it's time to e.g. change OS - there is usually a company policy about that for developers.
  • Strict separation of licenses (which can be audited if need be).

It is also in your interest that they provide you with a machine:

  • The burden of making sure the device is good enough to do the job is on them. You don't want them asking you to buy a more powerful device.
  • Changes to the machine (like the mentioned OS change) do not interfere with your personal use.
  • The 'contamination with malware' argument works in your direction too.
  • Separation of logins, cookies etc. and the responsibilities associated with those. You should make sure to use separate accounts on both machines, because that divides responsibilities and because your job there will end someday. When you have been doing 'work stuff' on the company laptop and 'private stuff' on your own machine, you can just hand in the machine and you're done.

Note that the common denominator of these arguments is risk reduction.
(Also read this extended discussion on Information Security Stack Exchange:
Is there a legitimate reason I should be required to use my company's computer?)

How much you will let this stop you is another question. You should at least make a clear request for a company-provided PC, expressing your concerns. If they deny that request you are back to square one, and have to decide if you actually want to work for them under their conditions (which would be an off-topic question here).

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    Actually, most BYOD policies I have seen (and I have seen a few) are very clear on who is repsonsible for what, and it's not in the employee's favour. Even to the extent that the employer retains the right to wipe the device at any time and wipe any of the users' apps and data that are on the laptop at the time. So if you do go down that route, as others have suggested, a dedicated work laptop seems the best path to follow. If you are in the US, you can at least write part of it off in your taxes. – Laconic Droid Oct 13 '15 at 13:28
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This really depends on the country you live in and the habits there.

I have worked for a company for a while that had large offices in Russia. This was at the turn of the millenium and might have changed since then. At that time, when a programmer quit, he would come in the evening and take both hardware and software he had been working with or he had helped develop and sell it on the street.

Several times we have been offered one of our servers on the street in front of our office a few days after somebody left the company.

We changed to a BYOD strategy, and all this stopped, because they respected their Russian coworkers, but not the employer from the west.

In other countries I have found that companies have a sort of BYOD in place so the developers can buy machines after their liking and to make work from home easier. But then, they will usually contractually make sure that nothing private is done on those machines and they will pay up to a certain amount for the hardware or at least pay a considerable monthly amount towards its usage, often to the effect that you culd buy a new machine within a reasonable time (2-3 years) from that money and still have something towards electricity and internet costs if working from home.

Otherwise, I agree with @Jan Doggen.

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It is a concern, but not automatically a negative one. BYOD is newer but not unheard of. Specially if your doing creative work. Unlike most people that answered, I would not consider working for a company that did not have a BYOD policy.

There are many, many positives to supplying your own equipment. What you have do is decide if the benefits out way the risks to you. If they do, then go for it, if not then don't.

Just for comparison, some positives that I see:

  • Better Equipment. I always have better equipment then a company would be willing to provide.
  • More shared "gray" area. In some companies going on Facebook is a fire-able offense, in a company with BYOD that can't really be the case.
  • Better maintained. If my computer has a problem then I can fix it. Without BYOD it's up to IT to fix it, and they don't always do the best job.
  • Better support outside the standards. While IT is awesome at installing office or other "common" tools in the business. They are not great at installing Visual Studio, or other odd tools, that require a special setup or configuration.

Some Downsides:

  • IT is not there to help you as much. It's your equipment, so your in charge of keeping it working.
  • Security/Risk If your computer is the security leak, then your the one responsible.
  • Required software - Sometimes you will be required to install software that you would rather not have on your machine but it's still required.

In the end, it's all up to you. But I don't think it's an automatic no.

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    IT support is outsourced - to YOU : ) – Agent_L Oct 13 '15 at 16:31
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    Depending on where you live, you can also get a tax write-off for your equipment because you are required to purchase it for your job. My guess is that the company is more concerned with the output of your work than how you choose to create it. If you're more comfortable on a Mac, go for it, but your colleague might be on a PC. I'm sure they require minimum specifications for the computer/equipment, but the BYOD means you're welcome to exceed them. – user70848 Oct 13 '15 at 17:04
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    If I was given a budget to buy new equipment, and the amount was reasonable to me. Then I wouldn't have as big of an objection. I would still want answers like "do I take it with me on vacation" or "is this supposed to be attached to my side at all times?" and other "gray area" questions that would blur the line between company and personal. For example, if I am supposed to keep it with me 24/7 then there can't be a negative to installing steam, as I don't work 24/7. – coteyr Oct 13 '15 at 21:04
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    " Without BYOD it's up to IT to fix it" really? You know that it isn't impossible to be an administrator for a company laptop (I am), which blows away two of your advantages? – Nathan Cooper Oct 13 '15 at 23:07
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    cont. Since all my configurations (IDE settings, etc.) and so on are part of my user profile, I can continue working in (realistically) about an hour. And I might be a miser, but any computer I ever owned was worse than the workstation I had at work - I'm not going to spend several thousand dollar on a machine if I have to pay it myself, but for a business that's a negligible expense if it improves my productivity. The advantages seem more like a workaround for bad IT and business decisions than real advantages. – Voo Oct 14 '15 at 14:54
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From my perspective the biggest factor is the difference between BYOD and BYCADWYOM (Buy Your Company A Device With Your Own Money). I could live with the former easily enough but would have major problems with the latter. I see the difference between the two as a combination of who pays and who has ultimate control.

Are they offering a $XXX subsidy every N years and simply letting you choose if you want an ultraportable device or something more powerful and bulky. Ideally if they're subsidizing your buying what you want, they should offer an extra $XXX with your initial buy to cover things like external monitors/etc that can be reused with multiple generations of computer.

I see ultimate control mainly in terms of the ability to monitor usage and wipe the device. IF your employer's data is in the main OS install and they have the ability to monitor activity/wipe the entire device it's their computer not yours. If their software/monitoring/data is contained a in a VM (or a dual boot setup) and they have no ability to monitor activity or wipe data in the main (other) OS, it's possible for them to have the level of control they reasonably need for their data; but still allow you to use it as your device after hours.

Related to the previous, for a full time work from home position, I would not be willing to put a work owned network monitoring/security device between my personal computers and the internet. If they want such a device, I'd only accept if it was installed between my router and the work computer and didn't attempt to interfere with the rest of my network. (In practice I'd separately enforce it leaving the rest of my stuff alone by having my router create a separate VLAN for work devices.)

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    Yeah, I gotta say, if I was in the OPs position, my response would be "I'll be happy to Bring My Own Device; however, we need to talk about the $2000 signing bonus I'll need to accept the job". – Carson63000 Oct 15 '15 at 2:47
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It's not common, but it's not completely unprecedented. I'm sceptical, and so are any amount of authors that you can find by searching for articles about BYOD.

I think your concerns could include any of the following, although no doubt many of them will be non-issues to you:

  1. Have you understood the policy correctly? Do they definitely require you to supply the device, or do they just require you to purchase the device, but they'll reimburse your expenses provided you agree that the laptop belongs to them? Do they make exceptions for people who don't already own a suitable device, or who just aren't excited by BYOD and would prefer not to participate?

  2. This is potentially quite a lot of money that they expect you to drop merely on equipping yourself to start work. But the same can be said of someone who has to buy suits when they start in a job that requires it, or has to buy a car for a particular job. Perhaps they're used to working with contractors (who far more commonly provide their own equipment)? If it's that they'd rather spend your money than their own then I would be extremely concerned: you don't want to work for an employer whose focus is not on enabling you to do good work, but rather is on finding ways to get you to pay for business-critical pieces of kit.

  3. If you already have a laptop you potentially would use for this, then is it really suitable to work on? Does it meet the specifications you think you need for the job, or that they say you need for the job? If it's a high gaming spec then it might be irritatingly large/heavy/hot for work with too low a battery life, but if it's a lightweight home machine then "not enough RAM" or "not enough cores" are common problems when trying to use cheap consumer machines for development. Is your home machine even running the OS you need for work? Will you need to upgrade to Windows 10, or hold off upgrading when you'd prefer to do so? Will you need to virtualize Windows in order start using your device for work? Can you accurately assess how much of the spec that layer will eat up, or will it be a trial and error kind of thing, where you end up buying a new device for work after a week or a month? These thing all become your concern, because it's your money you'll have to throw at any problems that arise.

  4. What rights do they expect to have to "your" device? Will they be happy for you to let your friends and family use a device that has their confidential data on it? Do they have compliance obligations, or will they gain them in future, that mean actually it's not possible for you to freely use "your" device any more? Will they require domain control or other access, and if so does that make using your laptop a non-starter? Supposing you quit or they fire you without notice, it seems unlikely they'll let you walk out of the door with it on the day. Remember Cary in "The Good Wife" with his personal laptop locked in his suddenly-former-office? That could be you.

  5. Whose time is going to be spent maintaining it? What IT support do they provide? Does the idea of their people fixing your personal machine make you feel happy ("I don't have to do this") or anxious ("what if they don't do it the way I like?")? Who will be responsible for time that you cannot work because it's broken down? That might seem like petty clock-watching, but if it's going to take you an hour a week extra to maintain it, then that time has to either come out of your evenings or else the exciting project you want to work on, and either way this job is 2.5% less good than you thought it was yesterday. Take this into account when comparing this job to any other interviews that you might be attending.

Worst-case scenario, if you're careful, is that this is just a cost of doing business with them. Buy a laptop (or desktop, even, if you want not to be able to work from home). Mentally write off the cost, it's just an upfront fee to start this job, like a relocation cost they aren't covering. Use it exactly like you'd use one they supplied. Check if you can recover any of the cost as a business expense. If the fact you technically "own" it is ever any benefit to you then fine, otherwise it's just money.

Best-case scenario it'll all go fine. I used a personal machine for work when I was a contractor some years ago, I didn't buy a special one or anything, and it was no problem. But you can't assume it'll be fine until you check with them any issues that might be problematic. As a contractor I wasn't expected to give my clients any access to my machine of any kind, but many BYOD policies are more intrusive.

Btw, my views are probably influenced by being in the UK. The sales tax situation here means it's 20% more expensive for the employee to buy the same piece of kit, than it is for the employer, and that's before you even consider that the employee is almost certainly going to have to buy it out of taxed income whereas for the business it's definitely an expense. Our tax people are pretty strict about allowable expenses for full-time employees and if the employee owns the device it's really hard to justify it. So "employee buys a device they wouldn't otherwise have to" really makes no sense at all here financially: the employer potentially is making you pay £2 to save themselves £1, which is no kind of employer-employee relationship. It's pretty common with tablets and especially with mobile devices which the employee owns already and doesn't want to carry two phones. It's not common at all with machines for software development.

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For a larger company, this is unusual. They generally want to control the equipment being used both for security and general standardization reasons. For a smaller company, particularly one where a) there's a lot of telecommuting, b) total number of employees is small, or c) work is based on available contracts, it becomes more viable. Look at it as being similar to delivery places that require drivers to own their own car. It puts an onus of responsibility on the developer to keep up their equipment, and insulates the company against losses if an employee suddenly leaves the company.

I've personally been in this situation with one software company for which I telecommuted. They had some minimum standards for the computers used, and they provided software licenses, but otherwise, the onus was on me to maintain my hardware. I was one of six developers, and the company didn't make a ton of money, so it just made more sense to let developers make use of their own resources.

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    Whereas I telecommute for a company that was very small when I joined it. I have the same deal as you: I maintain it myself, except that they paid for the laptop I specified to be sent to me (and they'll keep it or its successor whenever I leave). I'd characterise the questioner's company as "stingy". Perhaps they have good reason to be, but it just seems odd to me not to back up a BYOD policy with an option for them to pay for and own the device, if the purpose of the policy is anything other than saving the price of a laptop per employee. – Steve Jessop Oct 13 '15 at 13:31
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If you rally like the company and the job otherwise, there is a very simple solution to many of the already stated concerns: a separate computer.

Compared to what the usual salary in the field is, a decent (even second hand) laptop is usually not that much money. That way you'll never mix up work with your private sphere, you can lock the computer every evening in a (provided, hopefully ) cabinet in your office and set everything up according to what your contract says.

Potential red flags to this are:

  • Device maintenance and setup time not reimbursed (price of the 'steel' is usually very low compared to the accumulated maintenance and setup time).
  • No availability or possibility of sensible backup (if backup is a part of your BYOD contract and you are not allowed a NAS, for example).
  • You can't possibly fulfill your contract requirements even with best effort.

I can see it as a perfectly reasonable solution to have a BYOD policy when proper allowances are in place. I've seen and worked in places where such policy would make much more sense than what they usually had back then.

But always beware of the true meaning of BYOD: bring your own attack vector.

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Something I have not seen here yet, is if this is a contract position. In those cases the way contract law is structured (contract vs employee definitions) it's not unusual for a company to require the 'contractor' to provide their own equipment. This is also pretty common for auto mechanics from what I understand too, they often own their own toolbox.

I was recently in this situation and found it odd too, but I had not contracted in many many years.

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